Return to Transcripts main page

CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

President Trump Prepares to Deliver State of the Union; Closing Arguments Wrap Up in Trump Impeachment Trial. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired February 3, 2020 - 15:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[15:00:00]

JOHN ROBERTS, CHIEF JUSTICE OF THE U.S. SUPREME COURT: Without objection, so ordered.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): I suggest the absence of a quorum.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: All right, you have been listening to the Senate impeachment trial. Those have been the closing statements.

So, you heard from the Democrats. You heard from President Trump's team, and then the Democrats had the last word, Jeffrey Toobin, wrapping up.

Of course, they all had a chance to go more than once.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: All seven.

BURNETT: But Adam Schiff with a very impassioned argument there, sort of in the last two minutes, I think, summing it up well, targeting Republicans with: If you vote to convict, you will be among the Davids who took on Goliath.

TOOBIN: Right.

And he was trying to draw a contrast between Donald Trump the Republican and the Republicans in the Senate. And he said, he is not who you are. In other words, he is a worse figure. He is someone whose lawlessness contrasts with the dignity and the appropriate behavior of those in the Senate, calling for the Republican senators to turn on him.

As we know, that's certainly not going to happen in anywhere near the numbers necessary to remove the president from office. I suppose it is still in doubt how Susan Collins will ultimately vote, how Mitt Romney will vote on conviction.

I would bet that both of them vote against conviction. But the outcome of this trial is not in doubt. What's in doubt, I think, is both the short- and long-term political legacy of this event. Does this linger in the 2020 election? How does history view it?

BURNETT: Yes. TOOBIN: All of those are still up for grabs. What's not up for grabs

is that Donald Trump will be president on Thursday, after this vote.

BURNETT: And, Bianna, one of the things -- obviously, we heard it from Schiff , but we heard it from some of the others, when Hakeem Jeffries, again, appealing to Republicans, talking about patriots and faith, Sylvia Garcia talking about faith, right?

I mean, they were trying to make their final pleas. And they did want to use their time.

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Right.

BURNETT: I think they kind of cycled through twice. They didn't want to leave anything on the table was the feel.

GOLODRYGA: Right.

And they didn't want to be disrespectful to the senators that they were talking to. I also thought Val Demings, when -- as a former police chief, when she made the nod to police recruits being held to a higher standard than the president of the United States.

And then, of course, you have Adam Schiff, who keeps coming back to, the president will do this again, and you all know it. And that's a line he's repeated throughout these two weeks. You know it. You know, in your hearts, what this president will do.

And, of course, that counters to what the president's defense team is saying, that why would you do this during an election year? You're taking the rights away from American voters.

And there you have both sides of a very important dilemma. You have the Democrats saying, he was trying to cheat during an election. So why would he not continue to do it? We have to stop him before this election.

And then you have the Republicans saying, we have an election in nine months. This is a democratic process, and you're taking away that process. So, both sides --

BURNETT: And what you saw, Tim, also was Trump's team trying to go for a bipartisan vote, right?

They're looking at Kyrsten Sinema. They're looking at Joe Manchin. And what you just heard there from Adam Schiff and the others on the Democratic team, Hakeem Jeffries, Congressman Garcia, Congresswoman Lofgren, was the exact same thing.

And we get the color in the room. You get, oh, Susan Collins is taking excessive notes even now, when there's no reason to really even be taking notes. She's still taking notes. But each side is trying to pluck just that one vote.

TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, both sides were we're blaming the other side for the fact that we're in this partisan moment.

And, in fact, both sides if they agreed on anything, it was that this is a lamentably partisan moment. But then, when you listen to why and how they explain the partisanship, they began to diverge.

And they used history as a grab bag. And, of course, I think, I guess lawyers often do. But let me tell you that one side had history, if I may say this, on their side, the other side not so much.

The bipartisanship of the Nixon period, which both sides have described, so I guess they agree, was a product of political courage. The Republicans who decided to vote against Richard Nixon did so despite the fact that their leadership was telling them not to.

They did so because -- despite the fact they had death threats. We may think of this as the most partisan moment. But the '70s were equally partisan. This was a tough thing for them to do.

We never had a Senate trial in 1974. But we have a sense of what it might have been like, because the resolution, the draft resolution was written by both the Republicans and the Democratic leadership. The Senate trial in 1974 would have had witnesses.

The Senate trial in 1974 would have admitted new evidence. The Senate trial in 1974 was going to look at issues of abuse of power and issues where there were no crimes committed.

That, unfortunately, is not a precedent. It didn't happen. So, in this impeachment, we had to go back to the Johnson impeachment, and then the Clinton impeachment, both of which served to be different cases and both of which rested on a question of breaking of laws.

[15:05:08]

We didn't look -- we didn't look at our history. And we didn't look at the basis for the bipartisanship in past impeachments. And, as a result, the public may feel that it's one or the other, that they're both right.

They're not both right. There's a real reason why this impeachment wasn't bipartisan. And it's because we don't see the political courage now that we did in 1975.

BURNETT: And, Chris, in Washington, as you watch this, obviously, the big discussion was, right, do you need to have some sort of a statutory crime?

And Schiff took that on directly, right, making the point there were no statutory crimes when the Constitution was adopted, as just a basic point, again, trying to make that argument that Alan Dershowitz's argument that you have to have an actual crime in a statutory sense makes no sense.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Yes. I mean, look, the professor can argue that. That's fine. The criticism of the professor I think that is fair is, this is not an

academic discussion. It's a practical one. And you heard the president's defenders make that argument. And then, what was their other big argument? They don't have any direct testimony of anybody tying the president to the problem.

They stayed with that even after this Faustian bargain of them not voting for witnesses. So, Erin, look, we know what happened. We know why it happened. It's all very obvious.

The only thing that is an unknown is, how will this process reflect on the American political spectrum? And we will see that starting probably tonight.

All right, so let me bring in the better minds that I have here to get a sense of this.

So, Susan, in terms of the closing arguments, OK, a lot of what we have heard before with different emphasis specifically on the House managers' side, effect?

SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: The effect.

Look, I was really struck by Adam Schiff. We all know at this point that he can give an eloquent speech. But look at how, in the course of this trial, he's had to redefine his goals down to, is there not one among you? Is there not one vote here?

He's speaking directly to Mitt Romney, because, essentially, everything else is decided. And, obviously, that's not where things started out in September, when this impeachment process began.

So, number one, I heard an eloquent admission of defeat from Adam Schiff and basically a naked plea to history. Is there somebody who'd like to stand up here and be remembered for defining the great majority of their own party, number one?

Number two, really struck by Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel's closing argument. What did he say? He said, in the end, the president's done nothing wrong. It sounded like a speech, in fact, dictated by Donald Trump.

This creates a problem for Republican senators. I suspect they will find a way to overcome this problem. But it is a problem for them, because, in fact, Lamar Alexander and many of the other senators are saying, oh, no, he did do something wrong. We just don't find it rises to level of impeachable and removable offenses.

CUOMO: Right.

GLASSER: But that's not what Donald Trump wanted as his defense. And, in the end, the White House counsel is going to make them squirm a bit more.

CUOMO: The idea, Laura, that they went heavier on the nothing wrong in ratio to and they have nobody who knows anything, it was heavier nothing wrong this time, but they didn't abandon they have nobody who knows anything directly, even after the vote of no witnesses.

What's the play?

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: They also didn't abandon, Chris, the idea of the president being the savior of separation of powers.

Their argument has been for, what, the better part of six days now to say, look, this was an inter-branch dispute, and it is the Democrats, the House managers, who have disrespected separation of powers by not going to the judiciary, by not saying, help us to figure this out.

And so this idea that their obstruction, that their wholesale defiance of congressional subpoenas was somehow part and parcel to them actually trying to uphold the principles of democracy is one you would think that they would have abandoned long ago.

They have chosen not. To have this argument persist made my eyebrows raise, because, of course, they're already. They're ahead in the moment. They don't have witnesses coming in. There's no one who is going to try to remove the president this point. They know that.

So why not even appeal to the idea of make a straight-face argument that makes sense and is backed by the facts? Even then, they have abandoned it.

CUOMO: So we were talking about this earlier, the idea of, look, the Democrats knew where this was going to end up when they started it.

ROSS GARBER, TULANE LAW SCHOOL: Yes.

CUOMO: Their recourse position is principle. And that's what they have been doing, that the principle of it and the exigency, right, that this election is vulnerable.

Let's look at it now on the flip side, to Laura's point of the defense play here. Schiff saying, is there one among you? He really might as well just say, is there 10 among you? Because nobody's going first. There's too much fear. I mean, it's palpable in that room.

What is their rationale of how they want this remembered, and did they deliver on that in the closing?

[15:10:04]

GARBER: Yes, Adam Schiff got a lot of grief for saying that the Senate was on trial here. But it's true.

Our institutions of government were on trial here. This wasn't just about Donald Trump. The Senate was on trial here. The House was on trial here. The Congress was on trial here.

And I think, in some ways, this was Adam Schiff's defense argument. This was his argument for why they did what they did. A few weeks ago, I talked to Bob Barr, who was one of the lead impeachment managers in the Clinton impeachment trial. And I asked him. You knew how this was going to go. Would you have

done it differently? Would you have still brought the charges? And he said, yes, because it was the principled thing, in his mind, to do.

I think this was Adam Schiff's speech to the country and to history about why he did what he did.

CUOMO: I think the House will be remembered better in this moment then in the Clinton moment.

I mean, as we know, the -- what has been the legacy of that, how pathetic it was that Clinton put himself in that position for that kind of rationale, and that what a waste of time this was?

GARBER: I think, on the substance, you're probably right. I think it's too early to say how the House is going to be remembered here.

CUOMO: No, not here.

I'm saying vs. Clinton.

GARBER: Yes. No, I'm saying --

CUOMO: How can they be remembered as poorly as going after somebody for a blue dress?

GARBER: Like I said, on the substance, I think that's one thing.

On the process, I think it's too early. I think the House may have a tough time in history justifying how they did things here, justifying doing such a quick investigation, cutting it so short, not subpoenaing people, not enforcing the subpoenas, and running straight to an impeachment, and turning over all of their power to the Senate and having the show trial, where they knew what the result was going to be, while the House Intelligence Committee sat dark, and didn't issue subpoenas and didn't have hearings.

(CROSSTALK)

COATES: But one of the most obvious words to me here is the difference being an apology.

Clinton was contrite. He was apologetic. Now, that is a direct contradiction to what you're seeing here, which is why Adam Schiff kept hammering it, and Val Demings and Hakeem Jeffries and Zoe Lofgren. He will do it, and he will do it again.

The idea of why the House now is remembered differently as the Clinton House is because they didn't have a deadline, not just an election, but the idea of an upcoming deadline, where they were going to have to prevent egregious behavior happening again.

There may not have been two blue dresses, to use the word about it, but there was really going to be another election coming up and they had to be judged differently. And so I think, because of -- essentially of how the presidents have dealt with and have accountability, they necessarily will be dealt with differently now.

GARBER: Yes.

CUOMO: Also, a big difference in the two men, also, that Clinton did not have control of the Democratic Part the way Trump does of the Republicans.

GARBER: Exactly right. That's true.

CUOMO: I have never seen -- I'm much older than you, Coates.

(LAUGHTER)

CUOMO: I have never seen senators, big shots -- you know what I mean? Senators are always very full, six-year term. We're the deliberative ones.

Afraid to say anything that will get them on the wrong side of one man.

All right, let's take a break here, because we need to talk about the president. As has been argued before, this is not just about him. These senators made choices that they're going to live with and they're going to be measured by.

But what about the truth? What about the facts? How do they line up on behalf of this president? We have the ultimate fact-checker here with us to do just that after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:18:10]

BURNETT: Well, the closing arguments in the impeachment trial of President Trump have wrapped up on the Senate floor.

So the House is now preparing to host the president's State of the Union address tomorrow evening. So, the senators, just to give everyone a lay of the land here, they are going to have the next sort of day-and-a-half to each get whatever, 10 minutes each, if they want it, to speak their case.

So, in other words, the president will not have his vote on acquittal until Wednesday afternoon, which means tomorrow night, when he gives the State of the Union, this will all be yet to come. And it'll be interesting to see whether he can avoid mentioning it.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins joins me from the White House.

And, Kaitlan, look, this is a president who has so aggressively said, right, perfect call, perfect call, taken this by the horn every chance he gets.

You have new reporting, though, about conversations that have not been happening ahead of the president's State of the Union. KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Republican

senators have been urging the president not to mention impeachment when he comes and addresses the House chamber during the State of the Union address, essentially urging him to move on, saying it's not the right venue to focus on it.

And so far, White House officials have refused to say either way what the president is going to say about it. He said, of course, yesterday during an interview with FOX News that he is not going to be delaying that address just because he hasn't been acquitted yet.

And that is a timeline that White House officials weren't happy with, because they wanted him to be able to walk in there acquitted, be able to essentially use it as this victory lap.

And, of course, with this delayed timeline of what happened on Friday night, the president is not going to have that opportunity. The question is whether or not he follows through with the advice he's getting from some people outside the White House, who have been essentially saying, look, Bill Clinton went and he delivered the State of the Union address before he had been acquitted. He didn't make any mention of it. You should follow a path like that.

But, of course, this is President Trump, and he often follows his own path. So, it's still really a question of whether or not he's going to mention it.

But, Erin, even if he doesn't, it's still going to be looming over the entire speech, while he's talking about the economy, while he's talking about his policy achievements and whatnot, while he's been in office in these last several years.

[15:20:09]

A moment that a lot of people are going to be looking at is when he walks into the room. How does he respond to the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi? Does he shake her hand?

Because, of course, we know, they have not spoken since October. So it's going to be so much more than just about the president's speech. But it will be interesting to see if he does, in fact, to bring it up after these Republican senators have said, hey, it's probably not the best idea.

BURNETT: All right, Kaitlan, thank you very much.

And, Bianna, you know what's interesting about this is, they're making their point however they can, right, in interviews with reporters and CNN, people like Roger Wicker of Mississippi saying, when asked directly, is the president going to bring it up, I don't think he should.

But the president has been proven right again and again in proving that he can do whatever he wants and go against all the Republican senators, and they will be fine with it.

GOLODRYGA: Yes.

And, if anything, he's now been vindicated, in the sense of saying everything that you have been telling me to do, all of you White House and Washington insiders, has been wrong. I have been going with my gut and look at where it's got me now.

That being said, who knows if he's going to stick to prompter and then say something off the cuff. He's going to have Nancy Pelosi behind him, and it's all going to be dependent on his mood of the day.

And if something comes up, if he's talking about the economy, if he's talking about something on a bipartisan level, he can veer off and start talking about impeachment as well.

So it's going to be a wait and see moment. But I don't know how he holds back from mentioning it.

TOOBIN: And even if he manages to get through the State of the Union without directly addressing it or taunting his enemies, you know that, the next day, he will do the same thing.

So, I guess I don't know what the big deal difference is between doing it in one location, as opposed to another. But, look, it's also true that he won. I mean, he's -- or, as of Wednesday, he will have won this trial.

BURNETT: He will be on the eve of winning.

TOOBIN: And that's something that has to -- has the right to acknowledge and take credit for.

Now, his behavior is a separate issue, but the result of the trial is that he is going to win. And I don't see why that has to be completely off-limits for him.

GOLODRYGA: And the longer he's in office, I think the phrase that was so presidential or that wasn't so presidential becomes moot, right?

And now it's Trumpian. And this has become who he is, and it's what we have known of him for the past three years.

TOOBIN: And look where it's gotten him.

GOLODRYGA: Exactly.

TOOBIN: He's the president.

BURNETT: And Nancy Pelosi, he hasn't talked to her since October. There's nobody who likes more -- I mean, think about it. He would have wanted to do this on the day he was vindicated. That's what he wanted.

(CROSSTALK)

NAFTALI: Of course.

BURNETT: But you know what? He's going to turn this to his favor. He's going to go, everybody's going to be watching me. A lot of people

who wouldn't ordinarily be watching me are going to be watching me, because they want to know what I'm going to do.

He is a person who feeds off that more than any other.

NAFTALI: He sure does.

And I suspect that he's not going to be happy if we get teleprompter Trump, because he's less effective when he's reading off of a teleprompter. I'm sure he would prefer to wing it at the State of the Union.

Don't you, can't you imagine, to turn it into one big rally? If we get teleprompter Trump, well, as Jeff said, we will get the real Trump the next day.

The extent to which he declares victory -- well, he will always declare victory, but the extent to which that he can declare victory without any negative notes will depend on what the Republicans say tomorrow.

If a few Republicans make the case that this wasn't a perfect call, this is not quite the acquittal, not quite the victory he wanted. So that might happen.

And I think, for history and for politics, that will make a difference, for him, maybe not today.

BURNETT: To your point, just -- let me just ask you this, though.

You're going to hear of these -- a lot of these senators. Now, just so everyone understands, what's going to happen now is, they each get their 10 minutes, if they want to use it or avail themselves of whatever portion of it they so choose. OK.

So, you are going to have some who are going to say things maybe like they have been saying on television in recent days, which is, he did it and he did it and he did it, but it's not impeachable. Lamar Alexander.

TOOBIN: Right.

BURNETT: Even a Marco Rubio, who will say essentially the same thing, except for, I don't think it's impeachable. He's going to hear those, because some of those are going to be televised.

So he's going to have heard some of those speeches coming into his address to the nation, because that's what's going to happen tomorrow with Susan Collins, et cetera.

TOOBIN: That's why these statements are interesting, because there really is a difference of opinion within the Republican Conference about this impeachment, not on the bottom line, but on the underlying facts.

The -- Lamar Alexander has become the first -- the -- identified with the inappropriate, but not impeachable.

BURNETT: Yes.

TOOBIN: But we heard from Manu Raju before we went -- we fought on the air that Senator Lankford from Oklahoma said there was nothing wrong with what he said.

Senator Marsha Blackburn from Tennessee, nothing wrong with it. Ted Cruz, I believe, has said many times nothing wrong with it.

That division, I don't know what substantive significance this has, but if we know anything about Donald Trump, he will not take kindly to the former view.

[15:25:08]

GOLODRYGA: And he may very well just come out and say, you know what? They were wrong.

He said that about Christopher Wray. Christopher Wray is still his FBI director. So he could come out.

And if there's just a handful of these Republicans who he knows will ultimately acquit him, he may come out and say, they were wrong.

(CROSSTALK)

NAFTALI: It mixes the message.

BURNETT: OK.

All right, and next, we're going to talk about the moment Trump lawyer Ken Starr -- he was obviously just there this afternoon -- he cited Martin Luther King Jr. to defense -- defend the president.

Plus, we are just hours away now from the first major votes of 2020. Look at this. This is going on as we speak.

What to watch for in just hours in tonight's Iowa caucuses -- ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)